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Bryan Cranston got The X-Files for being a perfect sympathetic creep

Vince Gilligan first worked with Bryan Cranston on The X-Files, when he created a very Walter White style antagonist for an episode, and Cranston pulled it off

Bryan Cranston in The X-Files

The creator of Breaking Bad – Vince Gilligan – first worked with Bryan Cranston on a Season 6 episode of The X-Files called Drive. He had never heard of the actor before, as this was shortly before he starred in Malcolm in the Middle. The character that Cranston plays in The X-Files is similar to Walter White in many ways, in that he’s scary and unlikeable, but still has something sympathetic about him.

In a Television Academy Foundation interview from 2011, Gilligan explained why the character was deliberately challenging to write, but also really hard to cast – until Cranston walked through the door; “I wanted him to be an asshole, to be a creep. He’s racist, anti-Semitic, deeply unpleasant. Yet, I still wanted to feel for him when he dies at the end of the episode.”

The episode is a two-hander between David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Cranston’s character – who share a car journey for the duration of the episode. Gilligan knew that they needed a really good actor for the role, and as the filming date drew nearer, he was getting nervous that they wouldn’t find anyone who could pull it off.

Gilligan describes Cranston’s audition as perfectly capturing the character – he was scary, but he had humanity ‘seeping out of his pores and eyes.’ He committed completely to the nastiness of the character, but none-the-less, you could sympathize with him. This could easily describe Walter White, and it’s easy to see why Gilligan wrote the Breaking Bad protagonist with Cranston in mind.

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Gilligan also said that he was ‘paying homage’ to an episode of the David Simon drama series Homicide: Life on the Street, which starred Vincent D’Onofrio. Simon went on the create The Wire, which had its final season in 2008, the same year that Breaking Bad began.

Check out our guide to the best thriller series and the best sci-fi series. Be sure to also check out our guides to the best TV series of all time and the best actors of all time.